By Russ Kennedy, Chief Product Officer, Nasuni, winner of the Best Cloud DR / Business Continuity Solution category at The Cloud Awards 202202023, shortlisted for the Best Cybersecurity Solution, Cloud Security Innovator of the Decade , Best Security Solution for Data Management / Data Protection categories at The Cloud Security Awards 2023, and Best Enterprise-Level SaaS Product and Highest Customer Satisfaction With A SaaS Product at The SaaS Awards 2023

Barely a week goes by without web outages stemming from technical issues for content delivery networks like Akamai, or increasing ransomware exploits which are reckoned to have grown by 62% globally since 2019. Ransomware attacks now appear to be increasingly targeting public sector and infrastructure organizations, such as Ireland’s Health Service Executive and Northern Trains in England. In these circumstances, organizations, large and small, need new and more dynamic business continuity planning and recovery testing for their established or emerging hybrid working models.

The last couple of years have been consumed by disruption brought by the pandemic as well as underlying factors such as the long-term rise in cloud computing and federated business models. We have also seen the increasing sophistication of malicious attacks already forcing companies to rethink their defenses and disaster recovery plans and simplify storage capacity planning, to help protect their critical data assets.

Remote: here to stay

The enforced shift to hybrid working during the pandemic has cemented business’ reliance on remote working and cloud-based resources. Most UK firms are planning for employees to work from home to some extent for the foreseeable future – the Institute of Directors (IOD) June 2021 data indicate that four in five (81%) plan to explore more flexible options – and survey data seems to indicate that employees want flexible working as part of their job arrangements going forward too.

In this world of hybrid work and cloud-based applications, companies’ data assets are under growing threat. Pre-pandemic research indicated that one in three firms were reporting data loss from external attacks. Meanwhile, given the surge in malicious attacks, the UK government updated its 10 cyber security rules for business in May last year.

Data and storage professionals are having to mitigate the security risks and recovery costs, despite their companies now operating with rejigged supply chains and remote workforces. Recent research suggests that data breaches are 4.5 times more likely to happen at end-user endpoints than back-end servers.

Incident response: on-premises and cloud native infrastructures

Businesses’ ability to enact disaster recovery plans and safeguard their data, however, varies considerably. IT teams with on-premises file sharing infrastructures remain rooted to system failovers with duplicates of their key locations or a co-located DR facility. In addition, on-premises storage infrastructures are likely to have become more complex with the supplementary or wider use of cloud applications to help businesses survive and enable remote work.

On-premises–focused organizations’ scope for local DR testing and improvement of recovery plans has been held back by the pandemic-related upheaval while recovery of data on compromised servers and devices can take days, sometimes even weeks. In a revealing example, Ireland’s Health Service Executive acknowledged a ransomware attack on May 14 last year, but was still working on its recovery in late July and has stated that the clean-up could cost €600 million.

Risks in a post-pandemic economy

In a post-Covid economy that is demanding considerable flexibility from adapted supply chains and new work models, cloud-native file storage’s fast recovery capabilities could give companies greater resilience and the operational flexibility they need.

In contrast to on-premises IT infrastructures, cloud-native storage strategies that save multiple versions ensure data is protected in the cloud, while the file systems affected by outages or attacks can be reconstituted with uncorrupted data for each virtual appliance. Because data and storage teams can easily roll operations back to the point of any incident or attack, they can efficiently recover data in a matter of minutes.

The UK economy adapted well to reworked supply chains and hybrid working since 2020 but the relentless stream of web outages and ransomware attacks shows the risks that firms with multiple cloud applications on federated workforces will have to address. Cloud-native file storage strategies give companies simplicity of use, easier DR testing, and fast recovery times; they are turning file restoration from being the ‘Achilles Heel’ for IT teams into a straightforward task within more effective and dynamic cloud-enabled incident response strategies. This is especially true in an age of such regular outages and increasing hacking activity.

Cloud-native file storage also makes it simpler to add file space for new or existing offices – without I/O teams having to carry out required storage calculations and maintenance cost projections associated with on-premises storage set-ups. As a result, the cloud storage option is an important factor in companies being able to respond more flexibly to customer needs in a fast-changing economy.

Challenges overcome

Today’s business environment, especially in the public sector and healthcare, demand data storage solutions that offer ultra-high availability, cross-location collaboration, and fast data access to quickly and effectively address people’s needs. Data protection is paramount, and storage solutions must navigate compliance and data privacy regulations as well. In fact, according to recent research, almost 2,323 local governments, schools and healthcare providers in the US were compromised by ransomware in 2021 after another bumper year for financially motivated attackers. Ransomware often targets the most easily identifiable asset – file data. Traditional enterprise backup and recovery solutions do not work well for files because the process of restoring files from backup takes way too long. Cloud file storage on the other hand has always enabled customers to recover files extremely fast following a ransomware attack by leveraging previous versions, with enterprises able to restore millions of files in a matter of minutes.

Many firms have previously been resistant to using cloud for storage, largely due to performance concerns, such as latency and data fragmentation across devices that undermined read/write performance, but these questions have been resolved. Leading cloud-native platforms have met these challenges through a successful record of being implemented across hybrid, multi-cloud and multi-region environments and delivering consistent storage experience across many different infrastructures.

Cloud-native storage – being put to the test

Amid continuing Covid disruption and changing company workloads, effective DR and restoration plans are critical to the successful management of data assets. Cloud-native storage has come of age, not only because of its rapid incident recovery capabilities, but also its long-term benefits – simplifying organizations’ file storage capacity planning, business continuity testing, and cutting storage infrastructure maintenance costs.